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Presenting Results

Whether explaining the distribution of a single variable or reviewing the results of an advanced statistical analysis, the researcher should try to convey substantive information in a clear and concise manner.  Lee Epstein, Andrew Martin, Mathew Schneider, and Christina Boyd co-authored an insightful series on best practices in statistical presentation for empirical legal research.  These papers are highly recommended for beginners interested in employing quantitative methods in their research.  Some key rules derived from the papers include:

  • When discussing the results of a regression analysis, do not only focus on the parameters which are “statistically significant”.  The researcher should also convey how “substantive” an effect each significant variable has on the outcome (dependent) variable.  Holding other variables in the model fixed, for instance, what is the predicted value of the dependent variable when the significant independent variable in question is at its minimum, mean, and maximum values?
  • If you are attempting to use your results to infer about a population, then you should do so while explicitly discussing the level of uncertainty of your estimates.  This typically implies discussing the confidence levels of your estimates.  For a fun discussion of uncertainty see Ian Ayres’ SuperCrunchers (pgs. 112-116).
  • Try to avoid presentation of data and results using tables—graphs are almost always superior.

Epstein et al. (2006) “On the Effective Communication of Results of Empirical Studies, Part I” Vanderbilt Law Review 59(6): 1811-1871

Epstein et al. (2007) “On the Effective Communication of Results of Empirical Studies, Part II” Vanderbilt Law Review vol. 60(3): 801-846.

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